Guitar repair: You do as the customer says – Part II

This is the second of the guitars that came to me where I did not understand the reasoning of the customer. I might add that this was a return customer on whose guitar I had worked a couple of years ago.

For those interested in reading about that experience, here it is:

3/4th Ibanez in for string change but danger lurking nigh!

This time, the customer had ordered online a set of bone saddle and nut and wanted me to install it. He planned to give away the guitar and wanted it to be in top shape. Creditable!

However, when he arrived, the nut seemed fine but the saddle seemed to have been shaped by a novice, for the intonation made for the ‘B’ string was situated where the ‘A’ string would ride! And no! It wasn’t as if a saddle meant for a left-handed guitar had been sent by mistake. Besides, the quality of the bone used in making the saddle was very suspect. No wonder the cost of nuts and saddles is less than half the price I charge!

When I first learned that that major e-tailer was selling nuts and saddles, I decided to check them out. I ordered two sets of nuts and saddles. Call it coincidence, poor workmanship or just my luck (e-tailer’s luck?), both saddles cracked under string tension while I was tuning up the instruments.  

I have since preserved the saddle to show customers who think buying from the e-tailer is a great idea. Like I always say, I can only advise and guide. It is your decision completely, and most certainly, your money! 

So, with the situation being what it was, the customer decided that he would take a saddle from me and use the nut procured from the e-tailer. The shocker came later. Though the saddle slot was meant to accommodate a 76mm saddle, the owner was sure that a 72mm saddle would work as well. Of course! Your instrument, your decision, your money! 

The owner said that he would like a really low action. If you can see it, the line on the new saddle (left) shows how much I have to take off the base to get the action right.

He also did not want me to change the strings. According to him, he had a set at home which he would later change himself. Good enough, but that would mean that I had to work with old strings hanging around, and the danger that in the process of winding and unwinding, there was every chance that a string would break. 

While I was checking the guitar, I noticed that the bridge was lifting all around the far side of the bridge.

I showed this to the owner but he decided that the bridge did not require immediate attention. And yes, he understood completely that the raised action on his instrument would be completely solved if the lifting bridge was attended to. And then again, who am I to say anything; your decision, your money.

I got down to working on the instrument and started by taking a look at the neck.

Thankfully, it was dead straight which is how we wish to see it.

Next job to be done? Knocking out the factory-fitted nut.

Usually a tap of the hammer is enough to do the job, but this nut was so well stuck that despite robust raps from the front and from the sides, I failed to dislodge it. Just when I was beginning to think that super glue had been used to hold the nut down, and just when I began swearing, the nut gave way. Maybe the swearing did the trick!

The nut was not super-glued as I had been imagining. In fact, it was seated in a rather deep slot, which was very pleasing to see. A deeper than usual slot for the nut means that the nut is seated perfectly and in perfect contact with the slot walls. What happens then is that sound transfer is much better and loss of sound energy is near negligible.

As I measured the old and the new nuts I realised that the new nut was much longer than the standard nut length! It sat very snug in its slot, such that there was no glue required to hold it in place but it hung out of its slot a couple of millimetres on both sides.

I called the owner and told him about the long nut. He said that he knew about it and it was quite alright if it hangs out a bit.  And that is how it went home!

When the owner came to pick up the guitar, I asked him whether he wished to ‘give away’ or ‘sell’ his guitar? He replied that he wished to ‘give’ it to his sister.

Hearing his reply I could have slapped my forehead in exasperation. Though I did not say as much then, but if it was his sister he was wishing to give the guitar to, so that she could learn how to play, why change a perfectly working saddle and nut, and why not fix a bridge that needed fixing?

Even as I write this, I am shaking my head in incomprehension.    

Amit Newton

An experienced guitar tech with over 10 years of experience working on acoustic Gibsons and Martins in the Gulf region. There is nothing that cannot be repaired; the only consideration is the price at which it comes. And yet, if there is sentiment attached, no price is too high! WhatsApp/Call me: 7080475556 email me:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *